Some thoughts and reflections on Philip Jenkins’s book Dream Catchers: How Mainstream America Discovered Native Spirituality
In my last post I talked a bit about how the church is akin to Tolkien’s Fellowship of the Ring. Both groups include folks of different races and cultures that do not always get along. Yet throughout it all, we need each other.
Today I would like to explore a bit more about the message the Fellowship spread why engaged on their journey.
In the books, the nine members of the Fellowship at the same mission: take the One Ring to the Mountain of Doom and destroy it. Along the way, they experienced betrayal, pain and death in addition to love, honor, self-sacrifice and companionship.
At one point in the journey, the Fellowship is split into three smaller groups with two others members having died before the split. While painful, it is noteworthy that each of the smaller groups retained a focus on the original mission. Just because they weren’t together in one big group didn’t mean that they didn’t care about the other groups or that they had given up on their goal.
Rather the act of split up into smaller groups, why originally a horrible things, helped accomplish something that wouldn’t have been possible had they stayed together. What was it, you may ask, that was accomplished by splitting up?
In splitting up, each group was able to connect with different people in Middle Earth and spread the vision of destroying the One Ring. Some groups were able to recruit entire nations with thousands of people to the cause while others were only able to recruit a few people. Yet each act of multiplication, when seen from a distance, was crucial in accomplishing the mission to which they were tasked.
The church is like that.
There are small churches of three or four people meeting in a pub just as there are large megachurches of thousands of people meeting in one venue. While these different groups look very, very different, they all are committed to the same mission – and are able to share the message of the King to people of different races, social position, gender, cultures, etc.
The one thing that the Fellowship did NOT do – and the one thing that the church must also NOT do – is keep silent and stop multiplying.
The moment we stop sharing the message of the King is the moment we have given up on the mission of the King – which is to destroy sin, death, and evil while usher in a new way of living without pain, sorrow, and tears. To bow our knees to King Jesus is to embark on a mission with him to share his love with all of creation (human and non-human). The way we live out this mission may look different, but that’s okay. We aren’t supposed to all look and act alike.
After all, we are a fellowship of Hobbits, Dúnedain, Dwarves, Elves, Maiar, and Human.
Six English letters that carries within itself a ton of emotions, good and bad.
For some the word “church” brings back memories of family, friends, Sunday School rooms, great worship and potlucks. To others, the word recalls unwanted memories of abuse, pain, human politics and rejection.
I have been on both sides of this scale – finding great comfort and sharp pain in that one word.
Yet throughout it all I refuse to give up on the word nor the concept that it represents. It is like the tension of the here and not yet. We are called by the King to walk with others through this journey of life, yet in doing so we open ourselves up to pain and heart ache.
It is like the Tolkien’s Fellowship of the Ring.
Nine people chosen from different races and culture. Not all the people liked, loved, or even carried for the others. However they were all thrown together by forces above them and tasked with a mission. As they journeyed through the land, they experienced betrayal and pain along with self-sacrifice and love. In a word, they needed each other.
It is the same with us. We are all on a mission with Jesus through the land of darkness awaiting for the fullness of the Kingdom to come. In following the King, we have bound ourselves to people of different races and cultures. There are those people and cultures we like and love along with those who we don’t. Yet we all are walking together with our Lord – and we all need each other, just like the Fellowship needed all nine members.
And just like Tolkien’s Fellowship, our fellowship looks different at different times. It may be a formal group of nine (i.e. the organized church with a building and all that) or it may be three friends riding across the land searching for lost love ones or two Hobbits walking through hell itself.
The manner or structure of what the church looks like doesn’t matter as much as some may think it does. At the core we are to be a fellowship on mission with our Lord walking through the darkness with those we love and those we are learning to love.